Owen Daniels fills decade-long void
Believe it or not, there was a time when pass-catching tight ends roamed in Buffalo. Today, Pete Metzelaars and Jay Riemersma are dinosaurs. You can read about them in encyclopedias and media guides. Long ago, tight ends were a part of the Bills’ passing game.
Today? The area between the hash marks has become a Bermuda Triangle. No one dares to venture there.
Looking for a reason why the Bills have failed to establish a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly? This is it. Rob Johnson’s propensity to pat the ball eight times, Drew Bledsoe’s cement-heavy feet, J.P. Losman’s chaotic squirming and the overall calamities of every other quarterback that’s graced the Bills’ pocket can be directly tied to the lack of a potent tight end.
A decade-old problem can be rectified this off-season.
The Bills have countless needs to address via free agency and the draft, but none is bigger than tight end. Last year, Russ Brandon focused on the defense (with admirable results). This year, the focus must be on giving Trent Edwards weapons. Houston Texans’ tight end Owen Daniels is the best place to start. The No. 1 ranked tight end on the Scout.com Free Agent Big Board has the complete package to jumpstart a stagnant offense.
With two different quarterbacks in Houston last season, Daniels still posted 70 catches for 862 yards and two touchdowns. In just three seasons, Daniels is already an elite tight end. He’s a young quarterback’s dream --- sure hands in the gaps of defenses. His yards per catch has increased each season.
Daniels will come at a very hefty price. As a restricted free agent, he isn’t free to sign off the market. The Texans will make every effort to re-sign their tight end gem. With Daniels, Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, Houston has a dynamite trio of receivers for Matt Schaub to grow with. You can be sure that if the Texans do not re-up Daniels’ deal, they’ll slap a pricey tender on him (likely a first- or second-round selection).
Rather than run and hide from such a price tag as he usually does, Ralph Wilson should be bold. Enough settling for the cassette players when iTouch’s are on the market. After shocking the fan base by sticking with Dick Jauron as head coach, Wilson’s brass has to make drastic personnel moves this off-season to re-energize its base. And, you know, to win.
Daniels is worth a blank check. Lethal tight ends are an endangered species in the NFL. Locking up the best rising star at the position sets the Bills apart in the AFC East. For whatever reason, general managers in the NFL are downright frightened to give up first-round picks for restricted free agents. A couple years ago, teams were terrified to cough up the goods for San Diego backup Michael Turner. Now such apprehension seems foolish.
Daniels is worth the 11th overall pick if it came to this worst-case scenario. The effect he’d have on Buffalo’s offense as a whole would be immense. In Houston, deep-threat Andre Johnson has emerged into arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL with Daniels absorbing attention underneath. In the season before Daniels arrived, Johnson averaged 4.8 receptions and 53 yards per game. In the three seasons with Daniels alongside him, Johnson is averaging 6.8 catches and 87 yards per game.
Everything peaked in ’08 when Johnson’s 1,570 yards led the NFL. Lee Evans could finally bust out as a top 5 wideout with Daniels next to him. Instead of signing a ho-hum pedestrian possession receiver for the No. 2 slot, the Bills should aggressively lobby for Daniels --- which would in turn maximize the potential of everyone around him. Robert Royal, Derek Schouman and Derek Fine are below-par at best. The Bills can’t stumble through another season auditioning each of them in the passing game. Trent Edwards needs a dependable, go-to threat --- Owen Daniels.
Yeah, it’d cost a lot. Restricted free agency isn’t friendly. But Daniels would finally re-introduce the tight end to the Buffalo Bills’ offense… at a level Metzelaars and Riemersma never dreamed of.
Jeff Garcia the perfect pickup at QB
With J.P. Losman and Gibran Hamden unrestricted free agents and Trent Edwards’ progress stuck in neutral, you’d think the Bills would have to a.) start over with a whole new starting quarterback or b.) settle with a wily veteran to tutor Trent Edwards.
Maybe it’s not so cut and dry. Garcia would be a healthy boost to the quarterback position in general for Buffalo --- just as he was for Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. In an open competition at camp, Garcia would both push and benefit Edwards.
His numbers aren’t glamorous. This past season, Garcia had only 2,712 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Bucs, missing four games in the process. But he’s gutty, a gamer to a ‘T.’ Garcia elevated a bad ’06 Tampa Bay team --- that looked a lot like the Bills at that point --- into playoff contention the past two seasons. He may be exactly what a down-and-out Buffalo offense needs: fire, passion, always looking to make a play on the run. Not many quarterbacks would finish a drive with blood spilling out of cut all over his face as Garcia did against San Diego.
This isn’t a slight against Edwards. The third-year pro deserves another shot --- with more offensive weapons --- to prove whether he’s the quarterback of the future. But bringing in Garcia could revive an offense that is staler than that cereal box jammed in the back of your cabinet. He can throw the deep ball to Lee Evans (see: Antonio Bryant’s late-season emergence) and at nearly 39 years old Garcia still has the tools to make the difficult throws underneath (see: 65 completion percentage in ’08).
Maybe it’s not exactly Sam Bradford or Matthew Stafford. But in his prime, Jeff Garcia has a knack for instantly reviving bland offenses. At a fair price, he could be a short-term wonder for the Bills’ offense.
Tyler Dunne is the Publisher of BuffaloFootballReport.com. He also writes for The Packer Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org